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LVPC Applies for $21 million in Waterfront Project

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ALLENTOWN, Pa. (WLVT) - Lehigh Valley Planning Commission recently applied for a 21-million dollar grant to add a road system, bike paths and walking trails along the Lehigh River in Allentown and Whitehall.

The BUILD grant is funded by the U.S. Department of Transportation, and if awarded, LVPC will match that money with their current $19 million. This project connects with a $400 million waterfront development project being developed by Jaindl Properties. Jaindl purchased 26 acres of land along the river in Allentown. Included in that purchase was a 3.5-mile stretch of railroad from West Union St. in Allentown to Race St. in Whitehall. Part of that has now been turned in to the future Riverside Dr.

The waterfront will have a combination of retail, office space, and residential living. Previously, the property was closed off to the general public for about 100 years when Lehigh Structural Steel Company was in business. “Which was basically this industrial curtain that was hiding one of the valley’s best assets - The Lehigh River - from the city of Allentown,” said Chief Operating Officer of Jaindl Properties, Zach Jaindl. “So through the development of this 26 acres, we’ll be able to provide hundreds of new living opportunities, thousands of new employees, a number of buildings and outdoor recreational opportunities that draw people to the Lehigh Valley, that may not have been interested prior.”

LVPC Executive Director, Becky Bradley, said the trails and bike paths will also make the valley more accessible for people who would usually drive, but will have the option to walk or ride. Jaindl said because they had land left over from their purchase, the trail will be an important connecting point to tie in the northern and southern legs of the Delaware and Lehigh National Heritage Trail.

In addition, Bradley said the area between MacArthur Rd. and Airport Rd. on Route 22 is more traveled than any other part of the Lehigh Valley, with 94,000 cars per day. “This provides us an opportunity, and all the businesses and residents in the Lehigh Valley, to have another mode to be able to get in and out of, not only Whitehall, but Allentown,” said Bradley. “So that should help eliminate some of the congestion we have on Route 22.”

The grant winners will be announced in November. Tracy Oscavich with the planning commission said the valley is competing with bigger areas like Philadelphia or San Francisco for part of the funding. If the Lehigh Valley is awarded, Oscavich said they are expecting to have the trails complete by 2025, and Jaindl expects the waterfront to be completely open within the next 10 years.